Are you experiencing foot pain? Do you notice your feet hurting when you exercise? Are you having knee, hip, pelvis, or even low back pain when you are running or playing the sport of choice? You may be suffering from one of many conditions that may be correlated with your foot type. Do you know your foot type? If not, you may benefit from consulting with a physical therapist who can help you identify your foot type and the source of your symptoms to see if they are related. Furthermore, a physical therapist can help you determine if you are exercising in the appropriate footwear for your foot type.
There is a spectrum of foot types ranging from pronators on one end of the spectrum, to supinators on the other. Ideally, we should all be walking or exercising in a “neutral” foot position. However, deviations away from “neutral” and towards pronation or supination can occur secondary to structural deformities, injury, surgery, weakness, and can be exacerbated by improper footwear. Pronators tend to have lower arches, flatter feet, hypermobility in the joints of the ankle/foot/midfoot, and therefore have very little stability to their foot. Pain syndromes such as plantar fascitis, medial knee pain, groin pain, sacroiliac pain, and posterior tibialis tendonitis are associated with severe pronation. Supinators, however, have good stability at the expense of lacking flexibility in the feet. Their feet tend to be more rigid and therefore lack adaptability to uneven terrain, and lack the ability to absorb shock. Pain syndromes such as anterior tibialis shin splints, knee pain, metatarsalgia (pain at the ball of your foot), Achilles tendonitis, and stress factures are often associated with excessive supination.
It is important that your footwear during exercise matches your foot type. Technology in running shoes has made great advances to accommodate for specific foot types. For instance, motion control shoes may be more appropriate for pronators. Whereas a cushioning shoe is more appropriate for supinators. If you are having pain in your feet or lower extremities when you are on your feet, consult your physician or physical therapist for an evaluation. A comprehensive evaluation will include assessing your strength, flexibility, and range of motion, but also your foot type and your footwear.
Written by: Gretchen Leff, MSPT, CPI